Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Economic Recovery?

Despite a record-setting stock market and stronger job growth, most Americans don't think the economy has improved in the past year, according to a survey released Thursday by Rutgers University researchers. Michael L. Diamond (mdiamond@app.com) offered the following assessment based on the Rutgers research report.

The grim assessment paints the picture of a stressed-out work force that is likely to spend money only cautiously, keeping a lid on economic growth, the authors said.

What do you think: Has the economy improved this year?
"I was surprised to see people are even more negative than they were 18 months ago," said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

The Report comes from a survey of 1,153 workers nationwide, taken between July 24 and Aug. 3 — a time frame that included a barrage of stories about global unrest. But it sheds light on a disconnect between statistics that indicate the economy is gaining momentum and Main Street workers who aren't benefiting. The Rutgers report is titled "Unhappy, Worried and Pessimistic: Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession." Among the findings:

• Two-thirds of Americans think the economy is the same or worse than it was a year ago, and 73%  don't expect it to improve in the next year.
• 33% think changes in their standard of living caused by the housing bubble's collapse and the recession that followed will be permanent.
• 78% has little or no confidence that the federal government can help.
• Only one in seven believe the average American is happy at work.
"They're really still suffering the consequences of what happened during the recession," Van Horn said.

Good and Bad Statistics:
The report helps explain a series of data that on its face is a paradox. The Standard & Poor's 500 this week has flirted with record levels. The nation has added 1.6 million jobs during first seven months of the year, the strongest job growth since 2005. And, its unemployment rate has declined from 8.2 percent in March 2013 to 6.2 percent last month.

But retail sales in July were flat from the previous month. And, personal income growth, particularly from wages, has been sluggish.

Consider the negative responses to this key question:
How do you describe Americans at work?

Happy: 14%
Well Paid: 18% 
Lazy: 23%
Productive: 43%
Highly Stressed: 68%
Not secure in their jobs: 70%
Source: John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University

Overall, these response paint a very gloomy picture among consumers, who are responsible for generating almost 70% of the economic spending and growth for America’s economy. 

Is there a solution? 
According to the American Consumer Council, three things can be done to improve the economy and encourage more consumer spending: First, there’s a genuine need for more jobs. ACC supports a job stimulus program that provides tax-break incentives for American companies in the form of a tax credit for every new job they create. Secondly, ACC wants to see less government regulation, especially for small businesses (under 100 employees) to encourage hiring. Finally, ACC supports an immediate increase in the nation’s minimum wage with gradual increases over the next three years to $10.50 per hour.

Given the dismal attitude of so many consumers, action is required now!

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